Brenda Brokaw
Ms. Virginia Senior America 2007

Brenda BrokawI was born Brenda J. Rhoad in Hershey, P.A., really not too many years ago! I had a wonderful childhood, frequently playing with my many cousins at my grandparents' nearby farm.

Music seems to have always been a common thread in my life. At the age of 6, I took accordion lessons, but byy age 10, I had outgrown the accordion and knew of an elderly man in my church who had a baby grand piano sitting idle. I approached him to buy it - which I did for $50.00, the sum total in my bank account! I studied piano for about 5 years.

Throughout my youth, I sang in church choirs and in a trio with my cousins, often being invited to sing in area churches. At age 17, I was asked to represent my local Youth for Christ in the East Coast vocal competition. The first solo I sang was in front of 2000 people and I placed 2nd out of 40 competitors. During my high school years, I also started and directed a children's choir at my church.

It was during my early teens I began to realize I was not from a family of great means. At age 14, I had heard of a job on a local vegetable farm, which I got, working in the fields 8 hours a day, helping with dinner and dishes, and frequently putting the children to bed, only to start all over again at 7:00 the next morning. (Wednesday nights and weekends I went home.) I was paid $15.00 a week totaling $150.00 for the summer, with which I bought school clothes. I also had learned to sew by now, and made many of my clothes throughout college, including my wedding dress. I was learning that anything worth having is worth working for.

I attended Hershey Jr. College (free since my father worked at the factory, and worked to pay my tuition at Houghton College, in upstate N.Y. (receiving a B.A. in psychology), and Alfred University (M.A. School psychology). Between under-grad and grad school, I worked as a vocal music teacher (grades 5-12) in Naples, N.Y. and loved it.

I met my husband at Houghton and had a wonderful marriage for 25 years until he died of his 4th brain tumor. At that time, I had an 8-year-old daughter, and given my faith, I knew all things happen for a reason and my life was not going to end.

During my husband's career, we lived in Massachusetts where I met an architect who encouraged me to go to design school, which I did - in Boston in the evenings. By the time my husband's company transferred him to Washington, D.C., I had worked 15 years as a school psychologist and was transitioning to design. I have owned my interior design business for 22 years and remain in this business primarily because of color.

Since my daughter is now 18 and in college, I have time for many activities apart from my business. I have studied voice seriously for 7 years and am on the stand-by list for the Washington National Opera. I occasionally perform in community theater and also sing with several groups at retirement centers as well as being involved in volunteer organizations and in my church. I love entertaining friends, collecting and selling antiques, ice dancing, traveling, and painting as a hobby. Life affords so many opportunities, I wish I had a few more (lives, that is)!

This is my philosphy of life: We have all been given many gifts, opportunities, and experiences in this life. Nothing comes to us by chance; everything is given for a reason. Don't dismiss any of these opportunities, thinking them impossible - remembering, we can do all things through Him who gives us strength. None of us ever accomplished anything by saying, "I can't.

2005 winning groupOn either side of Ms. Virginia Senior 2007 are the other winners, Wendy Pinhey of Annandale, 1st Runner Up (left) and Mary Sunbeam of Arlington, 2nd Runner Up (right)